I recently heard about a discussion one of our account executives was having about setting up an online employee apparel/rewards program (which happens to be one of our best-performing strategies for helping companies improve their employee engagement and satisfaction, but that’s another conversation). The question came up: How many company jackets do I really need to buy for my employees?
The answer: more than you think, if you’re looking at it as a one-and-done deal. “I bought them jackets last year, why would I want to do that again?”
The moment when it gets boring for you as a leader is probably when it’s just starting to get really exciting for the employee.
Ask yourself this: how many different department stores do we have to choose from? We have a lot, even just in one city or one area. People shop at them because they get tired of wearing the same things week after week, month after month. It gets old, and how people feel impacts how they function.
How do you feel when you have a new article of clothing, and you wear it for the first time? You probably stand up a little bit straighter. Maybe you spend a little bit more time on your hair. You step away from the mirror thinking, “I look great! I’m ready to take on the day.” You approach your whole morning with more confidence and resilience. Why would you NOT want to give your employees more of that feeling?
If your employees have a lot of choices, they may choose to wear that branded apparel with pride every single day, everywhere they go, especially if it's a fashion-forward retail item.
In our company, you can wear a SOLV shirt with jeans on Wednesdays and Fridays. Office attire has relaxed, and jeans have become a staple of employee workwear.
A lot of companies do casual Fridays. That isn’t unusual.
What you may not see as often is this: our employees wear their SOLV shirts on other days as well. Because we supply a lot of options beyond just one polo or tee, I see our employees making our brand part of their office wardrobe all week. A lot of times they layer - they might have a cold office or be working outside, so it's nice to have multiple layers, and then you see them take off that SOLV jacket or sweater and they’re still wearing our brand on the next layer underneath.When my employees choose to wear my company's name on their apparel, I see it as a real sign of how they feel about the company. We show up as a strong, connected team. Click To Tweet
Think about this: if you only provide one or two company shirts or jackets to wear, those items are going to wear out. They’re going to get stained, ragged, old, and dirty. That’s going to affect how your employees feel about themselves, AND how people feel about your brand – and not in the way you want.
Another consideration: if you give your staff a lot of branded apparel they enjoy wearing, it eliminates an expense and a decision on what to wear each day. Branded apparel moves into a higher position in the employee’s closet. They don’t have to do a lot of shopping or spend a lot of money, and they also don’t have to think as much about what they want to wear to the office. Some mornings, even one more decision to make is overwhelming, and it’s so nice to be able to grab a company shirt and know you’re going to look & feel great in it.
Not every shirt and every jacket you give out is going to make everyone happy. People have their favorites, and those preferences are different for everyone. You may give out a shirt and the material is not quite right for some of your people, the style or fit is off for someone else. They don't like to wear it. But if they have five other choices, they're still going to be in your branded apparel, and they’re going to have an option they love to wear.
The old-school mentality might be, why give employee gifts at all? Shouldn’t everyone just show up and do their work? Shouldn’t the paycheck be enough?
I guess you could look at it that way, and some companies do. My experience is that employees who are treated well and are given things that they may not buy for themselves are more impactful. They think bigger, they're enjoyable to be around. They're always trying to do better and move the needle. They feel like more than just a number.
Beyond that, as a human being I practice gratitude. And one way I practice gratitude is to make people feel good. I don't want a transactional relationship with my employees. I want them to feel respected, rewarded, and that they matter. When I give someone a gift, whether it's a backpack, a shirt, a tumbler, a great camp chair, or another great new company jacket, I want them to know that they were thought of, they were noticed, and they are important. And the most effective leaders I know feel the same way. They’re growing their companies by investing in their leadership abilities, in coaching, and in their employees.